What is the definition of Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is a cancer that starts in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located inside the front of your lower neck.

What are the alternative names for Thyroid Cancer?

Tumor - thyroid; Cancer - thyroid; Nodule - thyroid cancer; Papillary thyroid carcinoma; Medullary thyroid carcinoma; Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma; Follicular thyroid cancer

What are the causes for Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer can occur in people of any age.

Radiation increases the risk of developing thyroid cancer. Exposure may occur from:

  • Radiation therapy to the neck (especially in childhood)
  • Radiation exposure from nuclear plant disasters

Other risk factors are a family history of thyroid cancer and chronic goiter (enlarged thyroid).

There are several types of thyroid cancer:

  • Anaplastic carcinoma (also called giant and spindle cell cancer) is the most dangerous form of thyroid cancer. It is rare, and spreads quickly.
  • Follicular tumor is more likely to come back and spread.
  • Medullary carcinoma is a cancer of non-thyroid hormone-producing cells that are normally present in the thyroid gland. This form of thyroid cancer tends to occur in families.
  • Papillary carcinoma is the most common type, and it usually affects women of childbearing age. It spreads slowly and is the least dangerous type of thyroid cancer.

What are the symptoms for Thyroid Cancer?

Symptoms vary depending on the type of thyroid cancer, but may include:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Neck swelling
  • Thyroid lump (nodule)

What are the current treatments for Thyroid Cancer?

Treatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer. Treatment of most thyroid cancer types is effective if diagnosed early.

Surgery is most often done. All or part of the thyroid gland may be removed. If your provider suspects that the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, these will also be removed. If some of your thyroid gland remains, you will need follow-up ultrasound and possibly other studies to detect any regrowth of thyroid cancer.

Radiation therapy may be done with or without surgery. It may be performed by:

  • Taking radioactive iodine by mouth
  • Aiming external beam (x-ray) radiation at the thyroid

After treatment for thyroid cancer, you must take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of your life. The dosage is usually slightly higher than what your body needs. This helps keep the cancer from coming back. The pills also replace the thyroid hormone your body needs to function normally.

If the cancer does not respond to surgery or radiation, and has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy or targeted therapy may be used. These are only effective for a small number of people.

What are the support groups for Thyroid Cancer?

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

What are the possible complications for Thyroid Cancer?

Complications of thyroid cancer may include:

  • Injury to the voice box and hoarseness after thyroid surgery
  • Low calcium level from accidental removal of the parathyroid glands during surgery
  • Spread of the cancer to the lungs, bones, or other parts of the body

When should I contact a medical professional for Thyroid Cancer?

Call your provider if you notice a lump in your neck.

How do I prevent Thyroid Cancer?

There is no known prevention. Awareness of risk (such as previous radiation therapy to the neck) can allow earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Sometimes, people with family histories and genetic mutations related to thyroid cancer will have their thyroid gland removed to prevent cancer.

Endocrine glands
Thyroid cancer - CT scan
Thyroid cancer - CT scan
Incision for thyroid gland surgery
Thyroid gland

REFERENCES

Haugen BR, Alexander Erik K, Bible KC, et al. 2015 American Thyroid Association Management Guidelines for adult patients with thyroid nodules and differentiated thyroid cancer: The American Thyroid Association Guidelines Task Force on thyroid nodules and differentiated thyroid cancer. Thyroid. 2016;26(1):1-133. PMID: 26462967 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26462967/.

Jonklaas J, Cooper DS. Thyroid. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 213.

National Cancer Institute website. Thyroid cancer treatment (adult) (PDQ) - health provisional version. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/thyroid/HealthProfessional. Updated May 14, 2020. Accessed August 3, 2020. 

Smith PW, Hanks LR, Salomone LJ, Hanks JB. Thyroid. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 36.

Thompson LDR. Malignant neoplasms of the thyroid gland. In: Thompson LDR, Bishop JA, eds. Head and Neck Pathology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 25.

  • Condition: Thyroid Tumor Pressing Cervical Trachea
  • Journal: Lin chuang er bi yan hou tou jing wai ke za zhi = Journal of clinical otorhinolaryngology, head, and neck surgery
  • Treatment Used: ECMO and Surgery
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report describes a 74-year-old woman with a thyroid tumor pressing on the cervical trachea and causing suffocation treated with ECMO and surgery.
  • Condition: Benign Thyroid Nodules
  • Journal: International journal of hyperthermia : the official journal of European Society for Hyperthermic Oncology, North American Hyperthermia Group
  • Treatment Used: Microwave Ablation (MWA)
  • Number of Patients: 115
  • Published —
This study explored the effectiveness of microwave ablation (MWA) in the treatment of patients with benign thyroid nodules.